Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth Background


hello friends. we are moving on to 2 Henry 6! i did a little reading today about this play, and found some interesting tidbits to share.

well first of all, we need to know that this play picks up right where we left off. we are in 1445. the war between France and England is called off for now. Suffolk has secured Margaret for Henry. and Henry is totally oblivious to the fact that half the people he's close to want to overthrow him. York, named regent of France, is definitely hungry for that crown. he feels it is rightfully his. that awful bishop, Winchester, became a cardinal and is wicked evil. we'll see what he does. and then of course, there's Suffolk, who got Margaret for Henry but really wants her for himself. craziness! this play will take us from 1445 to 1455, when the civil war in England was just beginning.

something brought up in the introduction that piqued my interest: apparently, Shakespeare depicts Cade's uprising, a rebellion of the common people, in a very strange way. Shakespeare frequently portrays common characters with depth and sensitivity. when it comes to this uprising, however, he seems to be warning playgoers not to participate in this type of action. he accentuates the worst of what happens in this uprising, and portrays those involved in quite an unflattering light. he basically says that any group of common people who try to uproot the government are participating in an absurd act that will never pan out. they are being foolish. interesting, huh? i wonder where that comes from, and i wonder what it will seem like when i read it for myself.

i am also interested to see the role that prophecies play in this story. they always eventually come true i've been told, but often in unexpected ways. exciting.

and, as always, let's see how these female characters develop. our last unruly woman, Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake. nice knowing Richard III, i already know that Margaret won't meet such horrific ends, but i have no idea what her character will be like. we shall see!

thanks for reading! stick with me! and spread the word.

for tomorrow: act 1

~rebecca may


  1. In my dramaturgical research for THE LEARNED LADIES, I found out that Moliere, despite his penchant for social satire, was careful not to offend the king and his brother, who sponsored and supported his troupe and him, financially and otherwise. I've heard that Shakespeare was careful to hide his comments about contemporary political figures in his depictions of historical figures. Perhaps, in addition to taking steps to avoid angering those in power, Shakespeare inserted pro-royal messages in his plays, as what you discuss seems to suggest.

  2. At this time in theatrical history, the only hope of complete success a theatre company could enjoy was the patronage of one of the members of court. To offend a royal outright would have been death to the playhouse and perhaps to the playwright as well. He frequently couches slams in terms of jest or in the embodiment of one of his fool characters who would not know better. I am sure that a form of implied agreement would have been another mandatory accessory.

  3. PS Yesterday I purchased the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Yale edition. It was only $12.99 and albeit quite cumbersome, it might shed some additional insight into some of the readings. It is quite well annotated.

  4. susan and dani, awesome comments. thank you! very insightful.